Brownlee, council back on same page

The often fractious relationship between Christchurch City Council and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee appears to have been smoothed over.

Brownlee was left fuming on Thursday when the council failed to endorse changes to the housing rules in the draft Land Use Recovery Plan (Lurp) because of a legal oversight in the paperwork.

He threatened to cut the council out of the decision- making process unless it pulled its act together.

"At the mayor's request . . . I will attempt one more meeting with the Christchurch City Council. If that doesn't lead to some resolution then I'm left with no alternative but to approve the Land Use Recovery Plan in the form stakeholders believe is best for addressing urgently required residential and commercial development across the region," Brownlee warned.

That make-or-break meeting was held yesterday.

In a joint statement issued afterward, Brownlee and Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the meeting had been constructive and both parties were on the "same page".

It was agreed the council would, as it had already stated, consider adopting the Lurp's proposed new housing rules next Thursday ahead of the Cabinet being asked to give its final approval the following week.

"We expect the Land Use Recovery Plan will be gazetted before the end of the year," Brownlee said.

The housing rule changes Brownlee wanted the council to sign off this week would make it easier to split big houses into flats and would also allow people within the Living 1 and 2 zones to build two houses on vacant house sites as a permitted activity for the next five years. Granny flats would also be allowed to be used as stand- alone homes.

The new rules also include provision for a new planning mechanism that would allow the development of multiple adjacent sites for high-density housing in some Living 1, 2 and 3 zones. It would mean that sites between 1500 square metres and 10,000 sqm could be developed to a density of between one unit per 330 sqm and one unit per 150 sqm, provided they were buffered from adjacent properties and met urban design standards.

The only reason the council did not debate the changes at its meeting this week was because the report recommending them was presented in the name of the council's strategy and planning general manager and not in the name of the mayor or the acting chief executive as required under the provisions of the Local Government Act - an error Dalziel apologised and took responsibility for.

The mayor said the council was mindful of the need for the wider community to be involved in the decision- making.

Brownlee said that there was a balance between the immediate needs of recovery and the long-term needs of the city.

"Both parties are mindful of that and today we have made progress to deliver this. Officials will now work on finalising a position for the council to consider at its meeting next Thursday and the Cabinet to consider the following Monday."

The Press